A new apartment community across University Parkway from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport has taken a significant step toward approval, and this time the airport is powerless to stand in the way of Progress.
At its Dec. 14 meeting, the Sarasota Planning Board unanimously recommended approval of a site plan for Progress at University, a 280-unit complex at 1400 DeSoto Road. The developer is MMI Development of Orlando.
The difference is the Progress at University site was approved for rezoning in 2011 for a different project — a Habitat for Humanity condominium plan — and by state law, it can be developed by right providing density does not exceed that which was previously approved.
Plus, that approval occurred years before the city and the airport entered into an agreement that in part disallows residential development beneath the noise contour, unless it "must" do so. How "must" is legally interpreted is at the heart of the airport's case regarding Aventon.
One resident of the neighboring Tri-Par Estates cited that agreement as a reason the apartments should not be allowed.
“This one is a little different situation. I wish it weren't so,” said Dan Bailey, the airport’s general counsel. "I wish everything that he said was true. Because it's already zoned for 280 units, and it’s addressed in your comp plan specifically for this property, I fear that the airport is not in a position to do anything about it.”
The airport’s only leverage applies to FAA standards regarding construction techniques that mitigate noise inside the apartments, structure height and retention pond design that discourages wading birds, specifically including steep banks and fountains.
Representatives of MMI said the company has extensive experience developing apartments near airports and understands compliance with FAA and noise attenuation regulations.
The development has no provision for affordable or attainable housing units, but the Planning Board was in general agreement that the proximity to the airport will govern rents near the workforce attainable level.
With the Planning Board’s recommendation, Progress at University next goes before City Commission for approval.
Andrew Warfield is the Sarasota Observer city reporter. He is a four-decade veteran of print media. A Florida native, he has spent most of his career in the Carolinas as a writer and editor, nearly a decade as co-founder and editor of a community newspaper in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.